Sea Dragons pay homage to the spirit of aloha

| May 22, 2015 | 0 Comments
Members of the Hawaii Hula Company perform a traditional hula dance for attendees, May 11, 2015, during the Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Observance ceremony at Fort Shafter, Hawaii. The Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Observance ceremony was hosted by 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, U.S Army Pacific. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly K. Menzies, 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command Public Affairs)

Members of the Hawaii Hula Company perform a traditional hula dance for attendees, May 11, 2015, during the Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Observance at Fort Shafter, Hawaii. The Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Observance was hosted by 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, U.S Army Pacific. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly K. Menzies, 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command Public Affairs)

Sgt. Kimberly Menzies
94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command Public Affairs

FORT SHAFTER — With the theme, “Many Cultures, One Voice: Promote Equality and Inclusion,” the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command treated attendees from throughout U.S. Army-Pacific with ethnic food, traditional hula dance and an inspirational account of the effects of equal opportunity as it hosted an Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Observance ceremony, May 11, here.

This event was an opportunity to enjoy cultural dances and cuisine. It was also an important pause to recognize and pay homage to those of Asian-American Pacific Islander heritage and their achievements.

“This observance is important because it identifies the impact the Asian-Pacific Islanders have had on the United States, both in the past and present,” said Master Sgt. Raymond Peredo, force management noncommissioned officer in charge, 94th AAMDC. “It also identifies that Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders are just as important as everyone else who calls the United States home.”

The event’s guest speaker was Brian Woo, foreign policy adviser to the commander of the Pacific Air Forces. A native of Honolulu, Woo shared memories of discrimination when local children were denied education opportunities, and described the motivations of equal opportunity pioneers who pushed the boundaries, helping to clear a path for future Americans such as himself.

“On the third 54-mile march on March 21, 1965, Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis and other civil rights leaders, wore Hawaiian flower lei,” said Woo. “Yes, in the backdrop of racial hatred, violence and even death, King and his lieutenants accepted the lei, which symbolize the spirit of aloha, the Hawaiian word meaning compassion, peace and love.”

Rev. Abraham Akaka sent the white lei to be worn by King and his fellow marchers, said Woo.

“For Dr. King, this was a meaningful gesture of Hawaii’s solidarity and support for the civil rights movement and the people of Hawaii, the Asian and Pacific Islanders, who brought the lei, stayed on to march with him,” said Woo. “Still, as a young boy in the 1960s, watching the news on the family’s black and white TV, I was utterly shocked by the events on the mainland, but I was also deeply inspired by Dr. King’s words on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial: ‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,’” said Woo, quoting King’s speech.

“We have solidarity for what Dr. King stands for, because we are no strangers to discrimination,” he said.

• Guest Speaker

Before becoming the Pacific Air Force foreign policy adviser, Woo was a lead member of the United Nations team of counterterrorism experts. He evaluated implementation of Security Council Resolution 1373, a U.N. resolution that condemned the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and laid out a global plan to combat terrorism.

After retiring in 2005, Woo served as the senior adviser to the mayor of Honolulu for international, military and homeland security affairs.

During his extensive foreign service career, Woo was also the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, an organization against terrorism unit.

He served as the director of State Department Counterterrorism-Policy, Programs and Public Diplomacy and as U.S. Consul General to Chengdu, China.

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